October 17, 2013

Eye Injuries: Prevention and Response

October is eye injury prevention month. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly 2.5 million people suffer eye injuries each year in the United States, and nearly one million people have lost some degree of vision as a result.

They offer some great prevention tips in their eye injury prevention month handout, such as:

When using household chemicals, read the instructions and labels carefully, work in a well-ventilated area and make sure to point spray nozzles away from you.

When Injury Occurs

Eye InjuryWhen confronted with an eye injury involving an impaled object, remember that objects that penetrate the surface of the eye require immediate professional medical care. Foreign bodies propelled at high speed present the highest risk.

Be sure to activate EMS. Immediate care requires stabilization of the object and reducing additional injury.

Do not allow the person to rub the eye. Never try to remove an embedded object.

For small objects, cover both eyes with loose pads. Eyes move together, so covering both eyes prevents movement of the affected eye. Stabilize larger objects with a bulky, clean pad, and cover the uninjured eye with a loose pad.

Sometimes covering both eyes can be frightening for the patient. Stay with

the person and calm, comfort, and reassure him to help reduce anxiety. Regularly assess the person until EMS arrives.

If we simply have irritated eyes, sometimes we can “blink away” the problem. Small foreign objects on the surface of an eye will cause irritation and discomfort, so encourage the person to not rub the affected eye. Have the person blink several times to see if the eyelid or tearing can remove the object naturally. If not, flush the eye with tap water or saline eyewash solution. Flush outward from the nose side of the eye. If pain continues or the person feels like something is still in the eye, cover the eye lightly with a gauze pad and seek professional medical care. If the person has been exposed to flying metal fragments (hammering, grinding, etc.), do not attempt removal. Seek professional medical care immediately.

Chemicals in the Eye

Corrosive chemicals splashed into an eye can quickly damage eye tissue. Getting a corrosive chemical in the eye is painful, and affected eyes will appear red and watery.

Eye InjuryTo minimize damage, immediately flood the eye with large amounts of water. Hold the eye open and flush continuously for at least 15–30 minutes. Flush outward from the nose side of the affected eye to prevent contamination of the unaffected eye.

If the person is wearing contact lenses and the lenses did not flush out from the running water, have the person try to remove the contacts after the flushing procedure.

Chemical burns to the eye require professional medical care. Activate EMS as quickly as possible.

In factories, laboratories, and other occupational settings where there is a known or increased risk for chemical eye burns, specialized therapeutic rinsing solutions that have been properly tested and approved may be available. Follow the established policy and manufacturer’s directions for use.

This month, and every month, keep those eyes safe!

Want to take a first aid class to learn how to handle eye injuries or anything else that might come your way? Find a class near you today.

Find A Class, ASHI, MEDIC First Aid


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